Hello All and Happy Sunday,
On the subject of sustainable businesses which I’ve touched on in a few previous posts (Hand-made shoes and Fair Trade Electronics), I’d like to address a line of ethical/sustainable products we don’t hear about all too often–jewels! Specifically fair-mined metals and gemstones.
I learned about this subject from my dear friend Maddy who I met back in Catholic School, where our uniforms were burgundy and grey (Eew), but we still managed to look cute:
Always a crafty one, Maddy became a jeweler after studying design and metallurgy at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design.
After graduating, she moved to New York to pursue the jewelry scene and has worked for several companies over the years while developing her own line of hand-made products which can be viewed on her website: Made Line Jewelry.
I love Maddy’s work and feel so lucky to have a friend with the ultimate set of tools and skills to fix broken rings, earrings, and occasionally customize things like my late and ever mourned dog, Sparky’s collar, which she transformed into a pretty cool looking necklace that I now wear for obvious sentimental reasons. (Grammar/punctuation help, Grandma?)
The necklace, post Maddy’s handiwork; a simple transformation, thoughtfully crafted and well done:
The original piece on my original main man:
Needless to say, Maddy is awesome, especially because she is also promoting sustainability within her industry. Recall the Triple Bottom Line dicussed in a previous post, an emerging metric for evaluating business economics based on social, economic, and environmental impacts.
Using recycled metal in her jewelry, that is, metals repurposed from a range of products including old jewelry, electronics, and dental work rather than newly mined metal (all thoroughly cleaned and refined, mind you), Maddy is among a growing collective of ethical jewelers who are paving the way for a market of jewelry that is good for the planet as well as the people working to supply us with the raw materials. Its much like the Fair-trade electronics topic I wrote about here.
According to Maddy and others who use recycled metals, “the quality and value of recycled metal is exactly the same as newly mined metal, but using recycled metal is a great way to ensure that you aren’t supporting any mining practices that could have [detrimental] social and environmental [impacts]” (MadeLine Materials).
To give you an example, one side effect of gold-mining is Mercury contamination. Unfortunately, Mercury is often used during the refining process to separate gold from other elements. Because it is hard to filter out, local waterways often become contaminated by runoff, posing serious health problems for humans and the ecosystem at large.
According to Maddy, “Although there are a few alternatives to using mercury in mining, they are not widely known and the processes take much longer.” As a result, some small scale miners still opt to use mercury because it increases their speed and processing capacity. Gravity shaking tables and/or cyanide, are other options which also have toxic elements but can be neutralized and contained properly to prevent environmental damage. As explained above, mercury seems to be the simplest method and is not regulated despite the environmental and health impacts.
That is why it is important for us as consumers to support companies that follow ethical and environmentally sustainable practices, like Maddy’s company and other Farimined certified jewelers who buy recycled metals or metals from mining operations with mercury free processing. Through our purchasing (i.e. by altering demand), we send a message to the market about what products we want, and in this way we do our part to move industry standards in a sustainable direction.
Maddy also exclusively uses gemstones that come from reliable sources and discusses her “traceability ethic” here. Apparently there is a lot more to buying jewelry than I ever considered, and Maddy is working to make this information more widely understood. Hey, thanks lady!
Earlier this year, Maddy went with a group of jewelers to Colombia to explore the fair mined movement in action and to meet the communities supporting and supported by her jewelry work. The expedition was led by Fairmined, a certification label much like the “organic” label, which certifies gold sourced from “empowered, responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations” (Fairmined)
By opting for certified Fairmined jewels, ethical jewelers like Maddy can be certain their products are promoting well-run mining operations that promote the well-being of their miners, their communities, and the environment.
So, check out Maddy’s jewely! I think there’s some holiday sales afoot….. 😉